The linked study of deformation and depositional processes on submarine slopes

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Research Philosophy

Submarine slope systems host hydrocarbon resources that are of increasing economic importance. Many industry projections indicate that deep-water settings offer one of the few areas for organic reserves growth in the coming decades. However, exploration and production costs are high, the structures commonly difficult to image directly and reservoir distribution and performance hard to predict. We believe that risk can be substantially reduced through combined structural and stratigraphic analysis, founded on a dual strategy of numerical modelling and validation through analogue case studies. Submarine slope systems also contain important geo-hazards together with exceptional research opportunities for investigating the feedbacks between surface processes and deformation. All of these drivers combine to make integrative geoscience research on slopes systems, through the marriage of stratigraphic/depositional geology and structural geology, most timely. Furthermore, the background research in each of the contributing geoscience disciplines is now sufficiently advanced, from robust depositional models, understanding of structural evolution, the development of structural and stratigraphic modelling software and the acquisition of high quality deep-water datasets. The challenge now is to combine these understandings. This is the over-arching objective of our Struct-Strat Project.

Interactions between deposition and deformation operate at all scales on submarine slopes. At the largest scale, sediment loading drives whole-slope failure while the deformation created by slope failure influences sedimentation. Individual structures such as extensional faults on the upper slope and compressional folds and thrusts towards the slope toe create mini-basin morphology that impacts on sedimentation, especially net-to-gross variations in deep-marine clastics, while the sedimentation itself impacts on the dynamics of individual deformation structures. Furthermore, the architecture and evolution of individual faults and folds will be strongly influenced by bed geometry. We believe that studies at each of these scales inform the others, providing boundary conditions for numerical modelling, tests of geological histories and a robust framework within which detailed investigations can be placed.

The Struct-Strat initiative will run in parallel with the on-going Turbidites Research Group (TRG) programme) in Leeds which has a long tradition is delivering high-quality research to the hydrocarbons industry. Current TRG sponsors include BG, BP, BHP-B, Conoco-Phillips, Kerr McGee, Norsk-Hydro and Shell. Although the new project is entirely distinct from TRG programmes, it is complementary to them. We offer discounts to TRG sponsors who support the Struc-Strat programme.

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